Scrolling through Instagram post-Reading Week can easily incite familiar feelings of envy.
Chances are, your finger has recently hovered over various photos of spring break bliss: of peers sliding down ski slopes or sprawled out on Cuban sand. For some people, it’s simple enough to scroll away and continue on with their business. But if you’re prone to feelings of jealousy or inadequacy, these photos—and the feeling of jealousy—might stick with you even after you close the app.
It’s easy to experience envy while studying at Queen’s. As a school that’s known for admitting students with strong academic backgrounds and, stereotypically, personal wealth, student culture to some degree rests on feelings of competition.
It’s so part of our culture that jealousy might shape your four years here, but only if you let it. Here are some tangible steps to take to alleviate that envy.
Surround yourself with grateful people
Somewhere in each friendship is the right to tell your buddy some of the petty or dark thoughts you normally keep locked in a secret corner of your brain. It’s uniquely therapeutic to unleash your insecurities or worries, stew on them for a little while, and then toss them in your mental trash bin—all in the presence of a non-judgemental friend.
But if you find that you or the people you surround yourself with spend more time focusing on what’s wrong with life or tearing apart the people who seem to have things together, it’s time to make a change.
Make a conscious, repeated effort to shift the dialogue by talking about what you’re grateful for instead of what you lack. Otherwise, it might be best to confide in friends who search for silver linings.
Be the grounding force in your friends’ lives and, in turn, ask them to do the same for you.
Count your blessings instead of sheep
In 1954 holiday classic White Christmas, a suave Bing Crosby sings about the importance of gratitude by a crackling indoor fire. He and Rosemary Clooney are unable to fall asleep, so he suggests his own tonic for restlessness.
In typical Bing Crosby fashion, he croons: “If you’re worried and you can’t sleep / Just count your blessings instead of sheep / And you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.”
Sure, Bing’s just doing a good job wooing his love interest, but he has a point. I like to believe Bing is also speaking to us through this song—and his advice isn’t bad.
This is all to say that if you’re struggling with feelings of inadequacy, worry, or plain old jealousy, try counting your blessings instead of sheep each night. Instead of mentally scrolling through your shortcomings or constructing rigid expectations for the next week, reflect on the best parts of the day, week, or month you just had.
For Bing, counting your blessings means finding something to be grateful for even when things don’t seem to be going your way. Later in the song, he sings, “When my bank roll is getting small / I think of when I had none at all.”
The key to this exercise is repetition. Do it almost every night, and you’ll train your brain to habitually find the good in everything.
If hours of classwork, co-curricular fatigue, or the everlasting student cold knock you out as soon as you hit the pillow, keep track of your blessings in a journal instead. Catalogue the lunch you had with a good friend. Mark down the time you aced a test you thought you’d fail. Then, the next time you’re feeling low about your friendships or you receive a less-than-good mark, reread your entries and remind yourself of all you’ve accomplished.
A good attitude is the only thing you need in your arsenal
Finally, it’s time to get real: someone will always have it better than you do. No matter how hard you work for it, there will always be someone who’s smarter, better looking, or more talented. There will always be someone with more money in their bank account and a higher GPA.
So, where does that leave you? Hopefully, with a renewed sense of what’s really important: a consistently positive outlook on life.
When it comes down to it, your attitude is (often) the only thing that determines whether you’ll be happy or unhappy. That means even if you finally get everything you want—the perfect grades, partner, and social life—a persistent negative attitude still has the power to ruin your happiness because it feeds off what you believe you don’t have.
If you spend your time cultivating a bad attitude, nothing will prove good enough. Your partner will never be cool or attractive enough, just as your crazy night out won’t feel as fun as someone else’s.
The real problem isn’t missing all the things that others have, it’s failing to appreciate the things you do have. Happiness is an infinite resource, and all it takes is a change to your frame of reference to look at these things like blessings.
In the end, people would rather be around someone who approaches life like it’s a blessing than someone who’s always competitive or down on themselves. That’s why Rosemary falls for Bing in White Christmas: there’s nothing more attractive than a person who realizes that life is only as good as you make it.
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